Safaricom has officially started its operations in Ethiopia, taking the first actual step in the expansion of its wings into the country with a population more than double that of Kenya.
The telco said on Thursday that it switched on its mobile telecommunications network and services in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, officially starting the journey with a target to serve about 30 million people by April 2023.
President William Ruto on Thursday flew to Ethiopia to witness the historic launch, which has come after Safaricom was granted a nationwide full-service Unified Telecommunications Service Licence in the neighbouring country, to compete with Ethiopia’s state-owned Ethio Telecom.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said the company’s objective was to provide sustainable and quality mobile network to Ethiopians.
“Led by our Purpose to Transform Lives, we have deepened digital and financial inclusion in Kenya by connecting people to people, people to opportunities and people to information. With these lessons and experiences, we look forward to positively impacting the people of Ethiopia with a sustainable and quality mobile network that will be a vital launch pad for nationwide digital telecommunications services to over 118 million Ethiopians,” Mr Ndegwa said.
With the launch, Safaricom immediately provided 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services to 11 cities in the country, including Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second-largest city.
Group of companies
Safaricom Ethiopia is owned by a group of companies including Vodafone Group; Safaricom PLC; Vodacom Group; Sumitomo Corporation – an international trading and business investment company and British International Investment (BII) - the UK’s development finance institution and impact investor.
“The company plans to launch services in a total of 25 cities by April 2023 to meet the 25 per cent population coverage obligation in its licence,” the telco said.
It also announced that Safaricom Ethiopia has infrastructure sharing and interconnection agreements in place with Ethio Telecom.
Corporate leaders also lauded the launch, exuding confidence that Safaricom Ethiopia would boost the country’s economy, through digital transformation.
“Ubiquitous network connectivity will positively transform the lives of Ethiopians throughout the country, notably by making various Tech for Good solutions and services available in health, education, manufacturing, agriculture and digital finance,” said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.
“With the expansion of mobile phone use and the economic and human resource development, we will transform lives for a digital future, in line with the Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy,” said Toshikazu Nambu, Representative Director, Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, Sumitomo Corporation.
President Ruto also held bilateral talks with Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.